Naboth’s Vineyard

I haven’t written a Bible post in a while. I came across a thought this morning that seemed worth writing about.

When people tell me “the Bible is boring”, I question how much of it they’ve read. Sure, some portions can be VERY tedious to read. Genealogies, for instance, are hard to read just to read. You’ve got to have a certain mindset to plow through Leviticus, and even I dread having to read Ezra. It’s hard to read some of the prophets without learning the background of who is being written to and why. Some books, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, were written over a lifetime. It takes some homework to be able to understand either.

The New Testament has challenges too. Even Peter had trouble understanding Paul:

2 Pe 3:[15] And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (ESV) (emphasis mine)

But the historical books are different. These are accounts of things that really happened. And they contain some VERY graphic descriptions of events and people. Battles. Massacres. Rebellions. Rape. Incest. It holds little back.

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Judging and Condemning

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. I doubt it’s going to become the long essay I originally wanted to write.

We’ve all heard people make comments like “Don’t judge me” or “You shouldn’t judge people”. Why?

The ironic thing is that these statements are often followed by some very judgmental statements, like “You shouldn’t judge people, you jerk!” “Don’t judge me. You’re so intolerant.”

As an amateur philosopher (and as The Stand-Up Philosopher), I have tried to construct a world in which it is possible to live without making any judgments at all. I can’t. It’s impossible.

If it were possible to live without judging anybody, why do we have a legal profession? Why is there an entire occupation known as judges?

Chances are, it’s a total misunderstanding of a couple of verses in something known as “The Sermon on the Mount”. You can find the relevant verse in Matthew 7, verse 1:

7 “Judge  not, that you be not judged

The problem is, it doesn’t stop there. The entire point to this passage is not that you should never judge anybody at any time for any reason. That’s impossible. Jesus continues:

2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The New King James Version. 1982 (Mt 7:2–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The whole point to the passage it to make sure that you’re straightened out before you confront somebody else about a “sin” in his or her life.

My point to this post is not to “preach” at you. I get annoyed when people don’t use the right words.

I think instead of “don’t judge me”, what people mean is “don’t condemn me.” Try using that next time. It’s impossible to make it through life without making judgments about people and things. Think about it, you have to “judge” distance when you drive.

The Ugly Side of Acts 6

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Bible or church related post. I don’t count my spiritual work post because it was about general spirituality.

The church we’d been going to the last 8 years appointed deacons two or three times in that period. As the church identified the need for new deacons and ramped up into eventual nomination, topical sermons were preached. Acts 6 always came up in those sermon series. I imagine it’s the same in most churches that have to appoint new servants.

The sermons usually centered around the need to appoint deacons so that the apostles can attend to higher priorities. It’s kind of like how Moses let himself get bogged down in judging every Israelite case of “He stole my chicken!” rather than leading them through the desert like he was supposed to.

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Where Do We Get The Idea That People Engaged in “Spiritual Work” Are On Another Plane?

On Saturday, Seth Godin posted an entry on his blog titled “Phoning It In.” First, I want to state that I agree with his conclusion that we need passion in our work. We shouldn’t be, as they say in show business, “Phoning our lines in”.

I want to address the start of the post:

I was talking to a religious leader, someone who runs a congregation. She made it clear to me that on many days, it's just a job. A job like any other, you show up, you go through the motions, you get paid.

I guess we find this disturbing because spiritual work should be real, not faked.

I’m curious about where the misconception came from that people engaged in “Spiritual work” exist on some higher plane. I notice that even fairly well-studied believers somehow see pastors and elders and deacons as somehow holier.

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Patience: Can You Pray For It, Or Just Do It?

I was having a talk with some friends from church recently, and the subject of patience came up. The subject came up along with the old line “I’ve been praying for patience.” I’ve done that plenty of times myself.

I started to change my perspective on patience recently though. I was studying the Proverbs. I started reading one chapter each day, the chapter that corresponds to the calendar date (for instance, today would be Proverbs 20 because it’s September 20th). I stopped recently though, and have to get back to it.

I’m sure anybody who has studied Proverbs has also heard some of the Proverbs taught legalistically. For instance, Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I have heard of people being counseled by pastors or other church members that when one of their children runs astray, it’s their fault for not training up the child.

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Tim Challies- Don’t Take Your iPod to Church

Last Friday, Tim Challies posted "Don't Take Your iPod to Church" to his blog. (UPDATE: Today he posted a 1.5 update as he continues to develop his argument.) I normally enjoy Tim's posts, and I read through this one. I didn't agree with it, and since nobody else had commented, I left the first comment. I did my best to be reasonable, and I hope my comment came off that way. I then spent the weekend far too busy to get back to read other comments. I also spend some time thinking about the issue. The last thing I would want is for my own pride to get in the way. I've been reading the Bible on electronic devices for years. I find it much easier to carry and study the Scriptures from a handheld and from a laptop. When I teach classes in church, I've taken to bringing my laptop to church and teaching from my notes.

As I processed my thoughts on Tim's post over the weekend, I came to a realization that his arguments against reading the Bible on a mobile device, especially in church, seem to come from the same reasoning that old people might use in their "any hymn written after 1850 is from the Devil!" arguments. Simply because something is new does not make it bad, and simply because something is old does not make it good or right. Speaking of hymns, I'm about burned out on the 19th century hymns my church sings.

Sometimes, in an effort to be pious or to urge other believers to holiness, Christians make some really weird arguments. Two weeks ago, a lot of Christian blogs were repeating a post about why you shouldn't Twitter in church. I couldn't resist: I sat down in church that Sunday and Twittered that I was Twittering in church in response to a blog post I read. OK, the service hadn't started yet, but I felt like I had to. (My wife was furious with me when she saw that tweet on Facebook later). 

To this point, I'm not convinced that the possibility of misuing technology or being sidetracked by technology equals an admonition to not use technology in Bible study or corporate worship. I'm also not convinced that just because Twitter can be distracting means I shouldn't use it in church either. I know at least one person who attends our church's second service reads my first service Tweets.

Nehemiah As an Example of Male Leadership

My church is going to start a new men’s group. It’s proven to be a real challenge as we are a “freeway church”, that is, our membership is pretty well spread out. We’re not a community church where our membership generally lives nearby. My house is currently about 10 miles from the church, and if we sell and move into my in-laws’, I’ll be 20 miles out. Some people come from even farther. We’re also incredibly busy. Trying to find a date and time for a men’s group to meet has been difficult. I can’t do breakfast meetings because I get to work at 6:30 AM. We finally settled on Thursday afternoon, with our first meeting being today. We’ll see how it goes.

In preparation for our first meeting, I read the book of Nehemiah from the perspective of male leadership. For the past several weeks our pastors have been preaching from Nehemiah. Several things stood out to me during this read. For one thing, Nehemiah considered Jerusalem as a reproach with the walls down. Putting the walls back up would make the city no longer a reproach. I have to wonder if there is anything I can draw from that. Is a person, a family, a church, a group, a society, etc. a reproach with a broken wall, a lack of boundaries, or no form of defensive security and self-containment? Is there a broader application? I don’t like to over-spiritualize or allegorize parts of the Bible for which neither was intended, but in many cases there is a deeper message. I don’t have the answer now, but I do plan to study this.

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2009 Goal Update: Books

I figure I’ll be transparent about this one. I set a goal to read 100 books this year. I haven’t picked them out yet. So far, according to my records in Evernote, I’ve read 8.

Why 100? No particular reason, except that it sounds ambitious. I’m hoping over the course of achieving this goal, I learn how to read faster, and I learn how to absorb more. I’m not sure if I’m going to post reviews of a certain percentage or not. I’ll of course post them for the Thomas Nelson books I review, and if anything really stands out to me, I’ll post it as well. I’ll also add books I’m reading or that have influenced my life to my Amazon A-store. Check it from time to time, and feel free to buy anything that interests you from my affiliate.

What books am I going to read? I have no idea. No doubt I’ll read some from the bookcase full of books that I haven’t read yet. I’ll probably read some public domain books that I download online. I’ll also probably buy some new books and check other books out from the library.

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Children and Scripture Memorization

Starting this past September, we’ve been taking our boys to an AWANA program at the Berean Baptist Church in Magnolia, NJ. My wife grew up in AWANA and thought it would be good for the kids. As part of AWANA, they have to listen to a story and memorize a Bible verse every week. That’s been interesting at some points. The first several weeks, I had trouble finding time to work with them, but I’ve found that they do a better job if I (rather than my wife) work with them. I don’t know why this is, but it seems to work better.

The verses I can best describe as children’s adaptations from the King James. I was having trouble getting them to understand this week’s verse properly. The adaptation is from Luke 5:20 and goes “He said unto him, man, thy sins are forgiven.” Caleb kept saying “my sins are forgiven.” That’s not what the verse is saying. My wife told me that I can adapt it so they’ll understand it. I decided to give them the verse in context “Jesus said unto him, Man, your sins are forgiven.” They kept saying “ma’am” in that verse. I was looking for a quick way to explain it, and I tried a quick adaptation of the verse that is sure to draw the ire of their teachers: “Jesus said unto him, Dude, your sins are forgiven.” Unfortunately, that one took and I’ve been trying to break them of it since.

The Chronological Study Bible- Review

After starting a trial program with The Faith of Barack Obama and Through the Storm, Thomas Nelson has decided to formalize a program of allowing bloggers to receive free copies of books in exchange for a minimum 200 word review. TN does not require positive or negative; only that the book be read through and reviewed. Don't believe me? Here's a negative review of one of their books, with a comment by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson.

When Thomas Nelson rolled out their Book Review Bloggers site, there were 8 books up for review, two of which I had already reviewed. I decided to take on the Chronological Study Bible for review. I figured if I like it, it would be an asset to me. If I didn't like it, it would prove to me that I don't like chronological Bibles. I once downloaded a piece of software called "The Bible Planner." I don't know if it's still available. I never used the calendar, tasks, or other organizer utilities, but it came with a daily Bible reading plan. The Bible was arranged roughly in order. I read it for 3 months, but didn't like it. It was in the King James, which I was using heavily at the time. For some reason, I just stopping liking the trusty old KJV for daily reading (though it's still superior for quoting and memorizing) and settled on the New King James, which is the translation used for Thomas Nelson's Chronological Study Bible.

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